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Gulf War Report Raises Questions

October 19, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Pentagon-financed study concludes that a drug given to U.S. troops during the Persian Gulf war to protect against a nerve gas cannot be ruled out as a possible cause for what has come to be known as Gulf War syndrome.

Defense Department officials were presenting the 385-page review of scientific literature on the drug pyriostigmine bromide, or PB, at a news conference today.

Prepared By Beatrice Alexandra Golomb of Rand Corp., a California think tank, the study says PB ``cannot be ruled out″ as a cause of lingering illnesses in some veterans of the Gulf War.

``This does not imply that it is necessarily a causal factor, only that the possibility cannot be dismissed,″ she wrote.

The author is a physician at San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Despite the cautious nature of the conclusion, the Rand review of about 1,000 published studies on the drug gives somewhat more credence to the hypothesis that it could cause or contribute to Gulf War syndrome, a vague array of symptoms including chronic pain, digestive problems, nausea, skin rashes, fatigue, aching joints, memory loss and concentration problems.

PB was given to an estimated 300,000 soldiers during the war as protection against the nerve gas soman. The Pentagon has earmarked about $20 million, of $133 million spent researching Gulf War syndrome, specifically to study the effects of the drug.

The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times all reported on the Rand review in advance of today’s news conference.

``This is not a `Eureka,‴ Dr. Sue Bailey, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told the Los Angeles paper.

She said PB is still considered an invaluable tool against poison gas and will continue to be used.

``It is life and death versus the possibility of some long-term side effects,″ she said.

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